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News & Press: eConnections

Mentor Spotlight: Dr. Trista Reid

Monday, December 3, 2018  
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Whenever you ask a resident or a medical student about their experience working with Dr. Trista Reid, her outstanding commitment to patient care, education, and mentorship is made very clear. After only a few years on faculty, Dr. Reid has won numerous awards highlighting her widespread positive impact on both medical and resident education. In 2017 she won the Rookie of the Year award given by the residents, and in 2018 she won the Craver Professor School of Medicine Teaching Award, as well as the UNC Department of Surgery Outstanding Resident and Medical Student Teaching Award. After working with Dr. Reid and having her as a mentor myself, choosing to interview her for the AWS Mentor Spotlight was an easy decision.

Dr. Trista Reid MD, MPH is an Assistant Professor in the UNC Division of General Acute Care Surgery and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Gillings School of Public Health. She received her undergraduate degree in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University in 2005. She then completed her MD at UNC School of Medicine in 2010 and her MPH from UNC Gilling School of Public Health in 2008. She completed her General Surgery Residency at UNC in 2015 and went on to pursue a Surgical Critical Care Fellowship from Stanford University in 2016.

What led you to a career in surgery, and more specifically, trauma/critical care surgery?

When I was in medical school, I loved being in the operating room. I found that whenever I was on a surgical rotation, time would fly by because I was having so much fun. I enjoy working with my hands and working in a team. I chose trauma/critical care because I like being responsible for every aspect of the patient. I enjoy feeling like I can take care of most patients coming in through the emergency department, no matter how sick they are or how complex the case is. Tough decisions and difficult family discussions are common in critical care, which can sometimes make it a hard specialty to go into. However, I really love what I do and it never feels like work.

What has been your favorite part of being a trauma/critical care surgeon?

It is very rewarding to take patients who are incredibly injured, who otherwise wouldn’t have made it, and help them get to the point where they are talking, walking, and eventually going home. I also love not knowing what my next case will be; the variability keeps me on my toes.

What made you choose to pursue a career in academic surgery?

In academic medicine, we are constantly trying to push the envelope and find new ways to improve care and patient outcomes. Early on in my career, I also discovered that I enjoy teaching and working with medical students and residents. Working in an academic center has allowed me to do all the things that I find rewarding, including operating, taking care of critically ill patients, teaching, and research.

What made you decide to pursue an MPH and how has it helped you so far?

I wanted to understand surgery from a public health standpoint so that I could help the system rather than just the individual. Getting an MPH has been beneficial not only in allowing me to think critically about evidence-based medicine and the driving force behind my daily decisions, but also in teaching me how to properly conduct research.

How do you feel the surgical field has progressed in terms of gender equality over the past few years?

While it has gotten better, I think we still have a long way to go. We now at least have recognition of the importance of gender equality and of the presence of sexual discrimination. Recognition is one of the first steps towards addressing the issue. Unfortunately, while there is awareness, sexual discrimination still happens on a regular basis at all levels: patients, nursing, peers, and throughout the hierarchy of the medical system.

What traits do you look for in medical students and resident rotating on your surgery service?

I enjoy working with students who are hardworking, enthusiastic, and excited about learning. Surgery rotations are very self-directed in terms of learning, so students who take the initiative and insert themselves into learning situations as often as possible do very well. I am impressed when a student is able to identify on their own where help is needed and then takes the initiative to do what needs to be done.

What obstacles did you face early in your training and how did you overcome them?

Being a woman in surgery has occasionally been difficult because I always felt like I had to work harder to prove myself. These weren’t major obstacles, but I certainly noticed them. When I went on residency interviews, not that long ago, I had interviewers ask me if I wanted to have children. I noticed as an intern I would sometimes have to speak differently to the floor nurses than my male counterparts would. I was fortunate to have completed a lot of my training at UNC where there is a high percentage of women trainees and I believe more of a culture of gender equality.

What advice do you have for medical students interested in a career in surgery?

While the training is rigorous, if you truly love it, then it is absolutely worth it. With the proper drive and enthusiasm, becoming a surgeon is completely achievable. Be responsible for your own learning and take the initiative! On a more practical standpoint, it is important to start building your CV early to make sure you are a well-rounded applicant; grades and step scores are important, but I also like to see leadership, research, and volunteerism. It is also very important to get surgery mentors early on in the process who can help coach you and write you a strong letter of recommendation.

Jihane Jadi is a medical student at UNC.